It’s Melody’s birthday, and I’m going to talk about her, but first I need to talk about Theo. In particular, there are two things I need to say. My baby boy just played the flute in a concert, and my baby boy just started walking short distances on his own.
These are both things that last year I would have told you he could not do. Parents are the ones who usually say, “Don’t you underestimate my kid.” I’m not like that. As someone who knows my kid better than anyone else, I try to be realistic about what he can and cannot do, and so that means I’m the one who underestimates him.
I knew that when all 6th graders were required to learn an instrument this past January, the teacher’s choice of flute was the worst possible choice for him. I KNEW that. It was simply going to be too hard. All instruments are difficult, but I didn’t think he needed the extra disadvantage of having to produce a sound. Even if you play the wrong chords on a piano or guitar, a sound comes out. If you blow in a flute wrong, you get nothing but air.
He mastered assembling the flute pretty quickly. He mastered excellent posture, hand positions, arm positions… and it turned out that his long fingers are perfect for reaching buttons. So did he produce sound? You bet! The few times he came home and practiced “Stand By Me,” he was making music. Sure, it was terrible kid-who-just-started-playing BAD music, but he was doing it. What’s more, he seemed to enjoy it. I could tell he was proud of himself.
Last night was the concert. He was one of 5 or 6 flautists. It was impossible for me to tell how he sounded on the flute, but as a group they sounded great. He did his part; he contributed. That’s what being in a band is all about! And once again, I could tell he was proud of himself. Of course, he’s a tween, so my mom and I still had a hard time getting him to smile for a photo (P.S. My parents are professional musicians and still came to hear a bunch of kids who just learned an instrument a few months ago – says a lot about them!).
So now for the other thing I need to talk about. The bus stop is 4 blocks (and four streets) from home. In the beginning of the school year, there was a big crowd of parents there to meet their kids as they got off the school bus. As the year went on, that crowd dwindled as more and more kids began to walk home by themselves. Eventually, it was down to just one – me or Joe.
We were fine with that – crossing the street is a scary thing we didn’t want to rush. But we did have him walk ahead of us to practice, as if we weren’t there. His confidence grew, but he still was hesitant to go without us. The first time he finally did was out of necessity – we were super late getting out of the house in the morning, and had Melody with us. Walking at her pace he’d have missed the bus for sure (something that’s miraculously never happened this year). And so I told him to run ahead – and he did. Boom, just like that, he was ready. This was a couple of weeks ago and he’s been walking on his own since. He always texts me when he gets on or off the bus to keep me posted. I still breathe easier when I hear him walk through the door, but my friends of neurotypical tweens assure me they feel the same.
Some days I’ve watched him out the window. At first he was scurrying across the street to get that part over with, which was damn adorable. Now he’s increasingly confident crossing, though we have a ways to go. The other day he was bored when we were with Melody at the P.S. 150 park, so I gave him my keys and sent him home. It was a big deal! Next year his friends will take the subway to school since the bus isn’t an option for the 7th graders. We can get him busing through his IEP and we did ask for it. But at this point I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up taking the train at some point in the year. I am not going to underestimate him this time!
As he approaches teendom, I can see the changes starting. Shifts in his mood, his body maturing, his voice reaching lower decibels when he laughs… door slamming has started, and embarrassment, an emotion he’s never felt and I worried he never would, has suddenly begun to kick in. He didn’t want me adjusting his bow tie in front of his friends last night – I couldn’t believe it. Every night he’s intent on making sure his phone is charged – having one is still a novelty. I thought he’d lose it, but he takes amazing care of it. Texting with him daily has become one of my favorite parts of our relationship – writing and emojis help him express himself a little better or get a little silly. He’s been a bit difficult at times lately with his tweeny moodiness and aloofness, so the texting helps. It’s weird though, because he’s still very much a little kid in so many ways. I have a hard time reconciling his kid self and his maturing self, so it must be that much more confusing for him.
Theo will be 12 in August. He’s about 5’4” and 97 lbs. Tall and skinny, like his flute! One day I was looking down at my son when I spoke to him, and the next I was looking straight ahead to see his face. He’ll reach my height and exceed it any day now, because he’s seriously been growing an inch a week or so it seems. It’s a really strange feeling to have your child be your size. I can’t even explain it. We share shirts, we used to share shoes until his feet blew up to 10.5. We are looking less and less like mother and son, as everyone loves to point out. They think it’s a compliment, but I hate hearing it. I don’t want to look like his sister or babysitter, I want to look like his mom. Physical appearances aside, I FEEL like his mom, so it’s strange that when we walk down the street the picture doesn’t match. Yes, I had him young, but I’m pretty sure I’ve spent 12 years making him and growing him and loving him and losing my shit over him, which qualifies me as his mommy.
Anyway. I needed to put it in writing that I’m massively proud of this kid.